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Is John McCain pro-life?

That is the question posed by a post over at the CNS News Hub, which links to articles in the other NCR (the Register) that say, first, that McCain is not, then with a response from Senator (and convert) Sam Brownback saying he is. This is likely to be an ongoing debate, and McCain would seem compelled to address these concerns to shore up the right (and the "Catholic" vote?). Then again, McCain doesn't like to be pushed.

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I found two things of interest in the linked article.First, no mention is made of shutting down or regulating fertility clinics, a major source of embryos stem-cell researchers use in their research. It does not seem to be a concern of the "pro-life" movement that human embryos are created and disposed of routinely. They just don't want them used for stem-cell research. Second, this paragraph has me baffled:McCains reluctance to extend legal protection to unborn infants should not be a surprise. The grandson and son of Navy admirals, McCain at his core is a nationalist. He views defense of America and her interests as his calling in life.What is it supposed to imply?

Whatever McCain believes, our own task as Catholics is clear. We have a moral obligation to vote for the pro-choice politician who says he's pro-life and not vote for the pro-choice politician who says he's pro-choice.

I'm still back in the dark ages. I haven't figured out what Pro Life means. Is pro life only protecting the unborn? That seems to be the major concern. Does pro life ignore the people who are born? Does war have anything to do with pro life? Does universal health care have anything to do with pro life? Does immagration in order to feed your family have anything to do with pro life? Does a living wage have anything to do with pro life? I need help. I haven't found anybody who's pro life.

Andrew: As one who attended last April's conference in D.C, hosted by the USCCB's Justice For Immigrants Campaign, I can attest that many of the people who attended there agreed that immigration should always be consider a pro-life issue as it has to do with honoring the dignity of other people.Having said that, I and many of my colleagues from that conference went to our respective homes and stated what we agreed upon. We received many replies of "How dare you make that a pro-life issue!" It was not uniform and unanimous, but it was significant.

Pardon. I tapped the "submit comment" button too soon.I have no reason to doubt Sen. Brownback. The only sitting down that Sen. McCain might be doing with this is sitting down on Mr. Stricherz's litmus test.

Hello Andrew (and All),I for one don't think you are still back in the dark ages. I don't blame you for being puzzled. My impression is that many who refer to themselves as "pro-life" are committed to working towards the end of criminalizing abortion, but not necessarily to pacifism, opposition to capital punishment, provision of health care for those who cannot afford it, or any other position with respect to the deliberate killing of and preservation of human lives. This is one reason I do not use the term "pro-life", either with my students or outside the classroom. Like you, I think a literal reading of "pro-life" suggests a commitment to protecting and preserving human life in general (and some would extend the commitment to part of nonhuman life as well). On your understanding, "pro-life" people might be somewhat hard to find, indeed.Another reason I won't use the term "pro-life" is that this term is loaded. If one uses this term, one suggests that there is something wrong with anyone who disagrees. (Users of the term seem to suggest that no one would be "anti-life" unless he were either evil, crazy or both.) For similar reasons I will not use the term "pro choice".

Father O'Neal,I suspect if you had told me of your decision, I would have objected as well, and here is why.The Church teaches us that we must treat all people with charity and dignity. I absolutely assent to that teaching. Nonetheless, while I agree with many of the goals of the Justice For Immigrants Campaign I do not agree with many of the positions taken by some of the bishops and the priests about how to achieve those goals. Too many people, including many in the Church, decide to slap a pro-life lable on issues that are not strictly life and death issues - like abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty - either to infuse them with a moral certitude they don't have, or to water down the term so they can be pro-life at the same time they are pro-abortion or pro-euthanasia.

Sean: I wish that many of the people who confronted either me or my colleagues spoke in opposition as calmly as you have now.You are accurate in regard to the degree of moral certitude in which we can (and cannot) associate immigration policies alongside a teaching that is as clear as we have concerning abortion. The last part of your comments in your last paragraph are also accurate.In my own presentations, I make sure to include information about the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and inform people about their very thorough document "A More Perfect Union: A National Citizenship Plan". I wish that more pro-immigration supporters would know more about CLINIC's work; also, if more anti-immigration Catholics were familiar with CLINIC's work, they would see that offering amnesty would be strictly a short-run gain but not an infrastructure solution.

As Catholics, pro-life should mean commitment to the consistent ethic of life (a/k/a seamless garment). There should be "a linkage of all life issues" that cuts across all political ideologies:"What is the consistent ethic of life? It is a comprehensive ethical system that links together many different issues by focusing attention on the basic value of life. In his attempts to defend life, Cardinal Bernardin first joined the topics of abortion and nuclear war. He quickly expanded his understanding of a consistent ethic of life to include many issues from all of life. Already in the first of a series of talks, this one at Fordham University, Cardinal Bernardin stated: 'The spectrum of life cuts across the issues of genetics, abortion, capital punishment, modern warfare and the care of the terminally ill.'Cardinal Bernardin also acknowledged that issues are distinct and different. Capital punishment, for example, is not the same as abortion. Nevertheless, the issues are linked. The valuing and defense of life are at the center of both issues. Cardinal Bernardin told an audience in Portland, Oregon: 'When human life is considered 'cheap' or easily expendable in one area, eventually nothing is held as sacred and all lives are in jeopardy.'Along with his consistent linking of distinct life issues, Cardinal Bernardin acknowledged that no individual or group can pursue all issues. Still, while concentrating on one issue, he insisted in another address, the individual or group must not be seen 'as insensitive to or even opposed to other moral claims on the overall spectrum of life.' The consistent ethic of life rules out contradictory moral positions about the unique value of human lifeand it would be contradictory, for example, to be against abortion but for capital punishment or to work against poverty but support euthanasia.This linkage of all life issues is, of course, the very heart of the consistent ethic of life. This linking challenges us to pull together things that we might have kept apart in the past. Often our convictions seem to cluster around 'conservative' or 'liberal' viewpointsas in the above examples. But the consistent ethic of life cuts across such divisions, calling us to respect the life in the womb, the life of a criminal, the life on welfare, the life of the dying." http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac0798.asp

Thank you, William. To add to the second paragraph in my previous comment, although there might be differing degrees of moral certitude, these differing degrees do not prohibit a linkage to other issues.I thank everyone for your patience with my multiple posts. I'll ease off.

"Whatever McCain believes, our own task as Catholics is clear. We have a moral obligation to vote for the pro-choice politician who says hes pro-life and not vote for the pro-choice politician who says hes pro-choice."Now ain't that the truth?

Father O'Neal:You said:"I wish that more pro-immigration supporters would know more about CLINICs work; also, if more anti-immigration Catholics were familiar with CLINICs work, they would see that offering amnesty would be strictly a short-run gain but not an infrastructure solution."It is always helpful to make a distinction between legal and illegal immigration when discussing these issues. People who, like myself, consider legal immigrants as being the pride and glory of our Nation tend to get annoyed when the water gets muddied by charges that they are "anti- immigrant". So please, in the future do us all a favor by adhering to this very straightforward protocol. I'll be happy, you'll b happy, we'll all be happy. Thanks!

I thank everyone for the responses. I sometimes feel i'm looking for the next Mahatma Gandhi. I wonder if he could win.

Regarding what Andrew says above, did everyone see Pat Buchanan, on the Today show, say that regarding Iraq, the war, and Islamic extremism, if McCain is elected, he will "make Cheney look like Gandhi"?http://thinkprogress.org/2008/02/06/buchanan-gandhi-mccain/

Sean,Can you give me one issue in addition to abortion about which the Church's moral teaching is crystal clear and the Church's teaching about how the law should deal with that issue is also clear, too? Or is abortion the one and only issue on which voters and legislators have no "wiggle room"?

Bob: Fair enough. I revise my statement to say: "also, if more Catholics who claim to oppose to the present immigration activity were familiar with CLINICs work, they would see that the US bishops do not advocate for the government to offer amnesty as it would be strictly a short-run gain but not an infrastructure solution."

"...if more Catholics who claim to oppose the present immigration..."

In general, I'm with Andy, but Bil Collier did a beautiful job of getting past the one issue approach.(I'm not sure what "crystal clarity" has to do with this - I gues I think Matthew 25 is "crystal clear.")So I agree with Andy that if we all tried to live the Gospel message to the fullest and stopped harping on one thing only, we'd be better off for being less divided and better witnesses.The problem is I don't think it will happen.

I second Bob's comment: Bill Collier did offer us a great summary of the consistent ethic of life approach enunciated by Bernardin and others. The prolife hypocrisy meme gets huge airtime in progressive Catholic precints while the seamless garment gets little play. Why is it hypocrisy worthy of resounding condemnation to focus on abortion to the exclusion of immigration, for example, but not particularly remarkable to focus on immigration to the exclusion of abortion? There is tension between progressive orthodoxy and the consistent ethic of life. This cognitive dissonance often seems to be resolved in favor of the former over the latter both among my liberal Catholic cohort and these comboxes. Why? Could it be the prolife hypocrisy meme serves the useful purpose of enabling us to go with the zeitgeist?

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.